Rachel Bradley

Name of Interviewer: Mrs. Bernice Bowden

Person interviewed: Rachel Bradley. 1103 State Street, Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Age: 107?

Upon arriving at the humble unpainted home of Rachel Bradley I found her

sitting in the doorway on a typical split-oak bottomed chair watching

the traffic of State Street, one of our busiest streets out of the high

rent district. It is a mixture of white and Negro stores and homes.

After asking her name to be sure I was really talking to Rachel Bradley,

I said I had been told she was a former slave. "Yes'm, I used to be a

slave." She smiled broadly displaying nearly a full set of teeth. She is

of a cheerful, happy disposition and seemed glad to answer my questions.

As to her age, she said she was "a little girl on the floor whan the

stars fell." I looked this up at the public library and found that

falling stars or showers of meteors occur in cycles of thirty-three

years. One such display was recorded in 1833 and another in 1866. So if

Rachel Bradley is really 107 years old, she was born in 1830. It is a

question in my mind whether or not she could have remembered falling

stars at the age of three, but on the other hand if she was "a little

girl on the floor" in 1866 she would be only somewhere between

seventy-five and eighty years of age.

Her master and mistress were Mitchell and Elizabeth Simmons and they had

two sons and two daughters. They lived on a plantation about twelve

miles from Farmersville, Louisiana.

Rachel was a house girl and her mother was the cook. Besides doing house

work, she was nursemaid and as she grew older did her mistress' sewing

and could also weave and knit. From the way she smiled and rolled her

eyes I could see that this was the happiest time of her life. "My white

folks was so good to me. I sat right down to the same table after they

was thru."

While a child in the home of her white folks she played with her

mistress' children. In her own words "My mistress give us a task to do

and when we got it done, we went to our playhouse in the yard."

When the war came along, her master was too old to go but his two sons

went and both lived through the war.

Questioned about the Yankees during the war she said, "I seen right

smart of the Yankees. I seen the 'Calvary' go by. They didn't bother my

white folks none."

Rachel said the ABC's for me but cannot read or write. She said her

mistress' children wanted to teach her but she would rather play so grew

up in ignorance.

After the war Rachel's white folks moved to Texas and Rachel went to

live with her mistress' married daughter Martha. For her work she was

paid six dollars a month. She was not given any money by her former

owners after being freed, but was paid for her work. Later on Rachel

went to work in the field making a crop with her brother, turning it

over to the owner of the land for groceries and other supplies and when

the cotton was weighed "de white folks taken out part of our half. I

knowed they done it but we couldn't do nothin bout it."

Rachel had four husbands and eleven children. Her second husband

abandoned her, taking the three oldest and leaving five with her. One

boy and one girl were old enough to help their mother in the field and

one stayed in the house with the babies, so she managed to make a living

working by the day for the white people.

The only clash with the Ku Klux Klan was when they came to get an army

gun her husband had bought.

Being a woman, Rachel did not know much about politics during the

Reconstruction period. She had heard the words "Democrat," "Radical" and

"Republican" and that was about all she remembered.

Concerning the younger generation Rachel said: "I don't know what goin'

come of 'em. The most of 'em is on the beat" (trying to get all they can

from others).

After moving to Arkansas, she made a living working in the field by the

day and as she grew older, washing and ironing, sewing, housecleaning

and cooking.

Her long association with white people shows in her speech which is

quite plain with only a few typical Negro expressions, such as the


"She died this last gone Sattiday and I hope (help) shroud her."

"When white lady find baby, I used to go hep draw the breas'."

"Heap a people."


The Welfare Department gives Rachel $8.00 a month. She pays $2.00 a

month for two rooms with no drinking water. With the help of her white

friends she manages to exist and says she is "pendin on the Lord" to

help her get along.

She sang for me in a quavering voice the following songs reminiscent of

the war:

"Homespun dresses plain I know.

And the hat palmetto too.

Hurrah! Hurrah!

We cheer for the South we love so dear,

We cheer for the homespun dresses

The Southern ladies wear!"

"Who is Price a fightin'?

He is a fightin', I do know.

I think it is old Curtis.

I hear the cannons roa'"

Rachel Adams Rachel Fairley facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail